Anaerobic methanotrophic archaea have recently been identified in anoxic marine sediments, but have not yet been recovered in pure culture. Physiological studies on freshly collected samples containing archaea and their sulfate-reducing syntrophic partners have been conducted, but sample availability and viability can limit the scope of these experiments. To better study microbial anaerobic methane oxidation, we developed a novel continuous-flow anaerobic methane incubation system (AMIS) that simulates the majority of in situ conditions and supports the metabolism and growth of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea. We incubated sediments collected from within and outside a methane cold seep in Monterey Canyon, Calif., for 24 weeks on the AMIS system. Anaerobic methane oxidation was measured in all sediments after incubation on AMIS, and quantitative molecular techniques verified the increases in methane-oxidizing archaeal populations in both seep and nonseep sediments. Our results demonstrate that the AMIS system stimulated the maintenance and growth of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea, and possibly their syntrophic, sulfate-reducing partners. Our data demonstrate the utility of combining physiological and molecular techniques to quantify the growth and metabolic activity of anaerobic microbial consortia. Further experiments with the AMIS system should provide a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of methane oxidation in anoxic marine environments. The AMIS may also enable the enrichment, purification, and isolation of methanotrophic archaea as pure cultures or defined syntrophic consortia.
Microbial communities in hydrothermally active sediments of the Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California, Mexico) were studied by using 16S rRNA sequencing and carbon isotopic analysis of archaeal and bacterial lipids. The Guaymas sediments harbored uncultured euryarchaeota of two distinct phylogenetic lineages within the anaerobic methane oxidation 1 (ANME-1) group, ANME-1a and ANME-1b, and of the ANME-2c lineage within the Methanosarcinales, both previously assigned to the methanotrophic archaea. The archaeal lipids in the Guaymas Basin sediments included archaeol, diagnostic for nonthermophilic euryarchaeota, and sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol, with the latter compound being particularly abundant in cultured members of the Methanosarcinales. The concentrations of these compounds were among the highest observed so far in studies of methane seep environments. The δ-13C values of these lipids (δ-13C = −89 to −58‰) indicate an origin from anaerobic methanotrophic archaea. This molecular-isotopic signature was found not only in samples that yielded predominantly ANME-2 clones but also in samples that yielded exclusively ANME-1 clones. ANME-1 archaea therefore remain strong candidates for mediation of the anaerobic oxidation of methane. Based on 16S rRNA data, the Guaymas sediments harbor phylogenetically diverse bacterial populations, which show considerable overlap with bacterial populations of geothermal habitats and natural or anthropogenic hydrocarbon-rich sites. Consistent with earlier observations, our combined evidence from bacterial phylogeny and molecular-isotopic data indicates an important role of some novel deeply branching bacteria in anaerobic methanotrophy. Anaerobic methane oxidation likely represents a significant and widely occurring process in the trophic ecology of methane-rich hydrothermal vents. This study stresses a high diversity among communities capable of anaerobic oxidation of methane.
Cold seeps, located along the Sonora Margin transform fault in the Guaymas Basin, were extensively explored during the ‘BIG' cruise in June 2010. They present a seafloor mosaic pattern consisting of different faunal assemblages and microbial mats. To investigate this mostly unknown cold and hydrocarbon-rich environment, geochemical and microbiological surveys of the sediments underlying two microbial mats and a surrounding macrofaunal habitat were analyzed in detail. The geochemical measurements suggest biogenic methane production and local advective sulfate-rich fluxes in the sediments. The distributions of archaeal communities, particularly those involved in the methane cycle, were investigated at different depths (surface to 18 cm below the sea floor (cmbsf)) using complementary molecular approaches, such as Automated method of Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA), 16S rRNA libraries, fluorescence in situ hybridization and quantitative polymerase chain reaction with new specific primer sets targeting methanogenic and anaerobic methanotrophic lineages. Molecular results indicate that metabolically active archaeal communities were dominated by known clades of anaerobic methane oxidizers (archaeal anaerobic methanotroph (ANME)-1, -2 and -3), including a novel ‘ANME-2c Sonora' lineage. ANME-2c were found to be dominant, metabolically active and physically associated with syntrophic Bacteria in sulfate-rich shallow sediment layers. In contrast, ANME-1 were more prevalent in the deepest sediment samples and presented a versatile behavior in terms of syntrophic association, depending on the sulfate concentration. ANME-3 were concentrated in small aggregates without bacterial partners in a restricted sediment horizon below the first centimetres. These niche specificities and syntrophic behaviors, depending on biological surface assemblages and environmental availability of electron donors, acceptors and carbon substrates, suggest that ANME could support alternative metabolic pathways than syntrophic anaerobic oxidation of methane.
ANME; AOM; Archaea; FISH; Q-PCR; Sonora Margin
A methane-derived carbonate crust was collected from the recently
discovered NIOZ mud volcano in the Sorokin Trough, NE Black Sea during
the 11th Training-through-Research cruise of the R/V Professor
Logachev. Among several specific bacterial and archaeal membrane
lipids present in this crust, two novel macrocyclic diphytanyl
glycerol diethers, containing one or two cyclopentane rings, were
detected. Their structures were tentatively identified based on the
interpretation of mass spectra, comparison with previously reported
mass spectral data, and a hydrogenation experiment. This macrocyclic
type of archaeal core membrane diether lipid has so far been
identified only in the deep-sea hydrothermal vent methanogen
Methanococcus jannaschii. Here, we provide the first
evidence that these macrocyclic diethers can also contain internal
cyclopentane rings. The molecular structure of the novel diethers
resembles that of dibiphytanyl tetraethers in which biphytane chains,
containing one and two pentacyclic rings, also occur. Such tetraethers
were abundant in the crust. Compound-specific isotope measurements
revealed δ13C values of –104 to
–111‰ for these new archaeal lipids, indicating that they
are derived from methanotrophic archaea acting within anaerobic
methane-oxidizing consortia, which subsequently induce authigenic
anaerobic oxidation of methane; archaeal membrane lipids; fluid venting; microbial processes
The oxidation of methane in anoxic marine sediments is thought to be mediated by a consortium of methane-consuming archaea and sulfate-reducing bacteria. In this study, we compared results of rRNA gene (rDNA) surveys and lipid analyses of archaea and bacteria associated with methane seep sediments from several different sites on the Californian continental margin. Two distinct archaeal lineages (ANME-1 and ANME-2), peripherally related to the order Methanosarcinales, were consistently associated with methane seep marine sediments. The same sediments contained abundant 13C-depleted archaeal lipids, indicating that one or both of these archaeal groups are members of anaerobic methane-oxidizing consortia. 13C-depleted lipids and the signature 16S rDNAs for these archaeal groups were absent in nearby control sediments. Concurrent surveys of bacterial rDNAs revealed a predominance of δ-proteobacteria, in particular, close relatives of Desulfosarcina variabilis. Biomarker analyses of the same sediments showed bacterial fatty acids with strong 13C depletion that are likely products of these sulfate-reducing bacteria. Consistent with these observations, whole-cell fluorescent in situ hybridization revealed aggregations of ANME-2 archaea and sulfate-reducing Desulfosarcina and Desulfococcus species. Additionally, the presence of abundant 13C-depleted ether lipids, presumed to be of bacterial origin but unrelated to ether lipids of members of the order Desulfosarcinales, suggests the participation of additional bacterial groups in the methane-oxidizing process. Although the Desulfosarcinales and ANME-2 consortia appear to participate in the anaerobic oxidation of methane in marine sediments, our data suggest that other bacteria and archaea are also involved in methane oxidation in these environments.
Although the importance of trophic linkages, including ‘top-down forcing', on energy flow and ecosystem productivity is recognized, the influence of metazoan grazing on Archaea and the biogeochemical processes that they mediate is unknown. Here, we test if: (1) Archaea provide a food source sufficient to allow metazoan fauna to complete their life cycle; (2) neutral lipid biomarkers (including crocetane) can be used to identify Archaea consumers; and (3) archaeal aggregates are a dietary source for methane seep metazoans. In the laboratory, we demonstrated that a dorvilleid polychaete, Ophryotrocha labronica, can complete its life cycle on two strains of Euryarchaeota with the same growth rate as when fed bacterial and eukaryotic food. Archaea were therefore confirmed as a digestible and nutritious food source sufficient to sustain metazoan populations. Both strains of Euryarchaeota used as food sources had unique lipids that were not incorporated into O. labronica tissues. At methane seeps, sulfate-reducing bacteria that form aggregations and live syntrophically with anaerobic-methane oxidizing Archaea contain isotopically and structurally unique fatty acids (FAs). These biomarkers were incorporated into tissues of an endolithofaunal dorvilleid polychaete species from Costa Rica (mean bulk δ13C=−92±4‰ polar lipids −116‰) documenting consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates. FA composition of additional soft-sediment methane seep species from Oregon and California provided evidence that consumption of archaeal-bacterial aggregates is widespread at methane seeps. This work is the first to show that Archaea are consumed by heterotrophic metazoans, a trophic process we coin as ‘archivory'.
anaerobic methane oxidation; archivory; authigenic carbonate; biomarker; microbial–metazoan interactions; cold seep
Microbial mats in marine cold seeps are known to be associated with ascending sulfide- and methane-rich fluids. Hence, they could be visible indicators of anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) and methane cycling processes in underlying sediments. The Napoli mud volcano is situated in the Olimpi Area that lies on saline deposits; from there, brine fluids migrate upward to the seafloor. Sediments associated with a brine pool and microbial orange mats of the Napoli mud volcano were recovered during the Medeco cruise. Based on analysis of RNA-derived sequences, the “active” archaeal community was composed of many uncultured lineages, such as rice cluster V or marine benthic group D. Function methyl coenzyme M reductase (mcrA) genes were affiliated with the anaerobic methanotrophic Archaea (ANME) of the ANME-1, ANME-2a, and ANME-2c groups, suggesting that AOM occurred in these sediment layers. Enrichment cultures showed the presence of viable marine methylotrophic Methanococcoides in shallow sediment layers. Thus, the archaeal community diversity seems to show that active methane cycling took place in the hypersaline microbial mat-associated sediments of the Napoli mud volcano.
In the northwestern Black Sea, methane oxidation rates reveal that above shallow and deep gas seeps methane is removed from the water column as efficiently as it is at sites located off seeps. Hence, seeps should not have a significant impact on the estimated annual flux of ∼4.1 × 109 mol methane to the atmosphere [W. S. Reeburgh, B. B. Ward, S. C. Wahlen, K. A. Sandbeck, K. A. Kilatrick, and L. J. Kerkhof, Deep-Sea Res. 38(Suppl. 2):S1189-S1210, 1991]. Both the stable carbon isotopic composition of dissolved methane and the microbial community structure analyzed by fluorescent in situ hybridization provide strong evidence that microbially mediated methane oxidation occurs. At the shelf, strong isotope fractionation was observed above high-intensity seeps. This effect was attributed to bacterial type I and II methanotrophs, which on average accounted for 2.5% of the DAPI (4′,6′-diamidino-2-phenylindole)-stained cells in the whole oxic water column. At deep sites, in the oxic-anoxic transition zone, strong isotopic fractionation of methane overlapped with an increased abundance of Archaea and Bacteria, indicating that these organisms are involved in the oxidation of methane. In underlying anoxic water, we successfully identified the archaeal methanotrophs ANME-1 and ANME-2, eachof which accounted for 3 to 4% of the total cell counts. ANME-1 and ANME-2 appear as single cells in anoxicwater, compared to the sediment, where they may form cell aggregates with sulfate-reducing bacteria (A. Boetius, K. Ravenschlag, C. J. Schubert, D. Rickert, F. Widdel, A. Giesecke, R. Amann, B. B. Jørgensen, U. Witte, and O. Pfannkuche, Nature 407:623-626, 2000; V. J. Orphan, C. H. House, K.-U. Hinrichs, K. D. McKeegan, and E. F. DeLong, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99:7663-7668, 2002).
Anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) in marine sediments is an important global methane sink, but the physiological characteristics of AOM-associated microorganisms remain poorly understood. Here we report the cultivation of an AOM microbial community from deep-sea methane-seep sediment using a continuous-flow bioreactor with polyurethane sponges, called the down-flow hanging sponge (DHS) bioreactor. We anaerobically incubated deep-sea methane-seep sediment collected from the Nankai Trough, Japan, for 2,013 days in the bioreactor at 10°C. Following incubation, an active AOM activity was confirmed by a tracer experiment using 13C-labeled methane. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that phylogenetically diverse Archaea and Bacteria grew in the bioreactor. After 2,013 days of incubation, the predominant archaeal components were anaerobic methanotroph (ANME)-2a, Deep-Sea Archaeal Group, and Marine Benthic Group-D, and Gammaproteobacteria was the dominant bacterial lineage. Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis showed that ANME-1 and -2a, and most ANME-2c cells occurred without close physical interaction with potential bacterial partners. Our data demonstrate that the DHS bioreactor system is a useful system for cultivating fastidious methane-seep-associated sedimentary microorganisms.
The potential for microbial nitrogen fixation in the anoxic methane seep sediments in a mud volcano, the number 8 Kumano Knoll, was characterized by molecular phylogenetic analyses. A total of 111 of the nifH (a gene coding a nitrogen fixation enzyme, Fe protein) clones were obtained from different depths of the core sediments, and the phylogenetic analysis of the clones indicated the genetic diversity of nifH genes. The predominant group detected (methane seep group 2), representing 74% of clonal abundance, was phylogenetically related to the nifH sequences obtained from the Methanosarcina species but was most closely related to the nifH sequences potentially derived from the anoxic methanotrophic archaea (ANME-2 archaea). The recovery of the nif gene clusters including the nifH sequences of the methane seep group 2 and the subsequent reverse transcription-PCR detection of the nifD and nifH genes strongly suggested that the genetic components of the gene clusters would be operative for the in situ assimilation of molecular nitrogen (N2) by the host microorganisms. DNA-based quantitative PCR of the archaeal 16S rRNA gene, the group-specific mcrA (a gene encoding the methyl-coenzyme M reductase α subunit) gene, and the nifD and nifH genes demonstrated the similar distribution patterns of the archaeal 16S rRNA gene, the mcrA groups c-d and e, and the nifD and nifH genes through the core sediments. These results supported the idea that the anoxic methanotrophic archaea ANME-2c could be the microorganisms hosting the nif gene clusters and could play an important role in not only the in situ carbon (methane) cycle but also the nitrogen cycle in subseafloor sediments.
In this study we investigated by using 16S rRNA-based methods the distribution and biomass of archaea in samples from (i) sediments above outcropping methane hydrate at Hydrate Ridge (Cascadia margin off Oregon) and (ii) massive microbial mats enclosing carbonate reefs (Crimea area, Black Sea). The archaeal diversity was low in both locations; there were only four (Hydrate Ridge) and five (Black Sea) different phylogenetic clusters of sequences, most of which belonged to the methanotrophic archaea (ANME). ANME group 2 (ANME-2) sequences were the most abundant and diverse sequences at Hydrate Ridge, whereas ANME-1 sequences dominated the Black Sea mats. Other seep-specific sequences belonged to the newly defined group ANME-3 (related to Methanococcoides spp.) and to the Crenarchaeota of marine benthic group B. Quantitative analysis of the samples by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) showed that ANME-1 and ANME-2 co-occurred at the cold seep sites investigated. At Hydrate Ridge the surface sediments were dominated by aggregates consisting of ANME-2 and members of the Desulfosarcina-Desulfococcus branch (DSS) (ANME-2/DSS aggregates), which accounted for >90% of the total cell biomass. The numbers of ANME-1 cells increased strongly with depth; these cells accounted 1% of all single cells at the surface and more than 30% of all single cells (5% of the total cells) in 7- to 10-cm sediment horizons that were directly above layers of gas hydrate. In the Black Sea microbial mats ANME-1 accounted for about 50% of all cells. ANME-2/DSS aggregates occurred in microenvironments within the mat but accounted for only 1% of the total cells. FISH probes for the ANME-2a and ANME-2c subclusters were designed based on a comparative 16S rRNA analysis. In Hydrate Ridge sediments ANME-2a/DSS and ANME-2c/DSS aggregates differed significantly in morphology and abundance. The relative abundance values for these subgroups were remarkably different at Beggiatoa sites (80% ANME-2a, 20% ANME-2c) and Calyptogena sites (20% ANME-2a, 80% ANME-2c), indicating that there was preferential selection of the groups in the two habitats. These variations in the distribution, diversity, and morphology of methanotrophic consortia are discussed with respect to the presence of microbial ecotypes, niche formation, and biogeography.
The anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) is a key process in the global methane cycle, and the majority of methane formed in marine sediments is oxidized in this way. Here we present results of an in vitro 13CH4 labeling study (δ13CH4, ∼5,400‰) in which microorganisms that perform AOM in a microbial mat from the Black Sea were used. During 316 days of incubation, the 13C uptake into the mat biomass increased steadily, and there were remarkable differences for individual bacterial and archaeal lipid compounds. The greatest shifts were observed for bacterial fatty acids (e.g., hexadec-11-enoic acid [16:1Δ11]; difference between the δ13C at the start and the end of the experiment [Δδ13Cstart-end], ∼160‰). In contrast, bacterial glycerol diethers exhibited only slight changes in δ13C (Δδ13Cstart-end, ∼10‰). Differences were also found for individual archaeal lipids. Relatively high uptake of methane-derived carbon was observed for archaeol (Δδ13Cstart-end, ∼25‰), a monounsaturated archaeol, and biphytanes, whereas for sn-2-hydroxyarchaeol there was considerably less change in the δ13C (Δδ13Cstart-end, ∼2‰). Moreover, an increase in the uptake of 13C for compounds with a higher number of double bonds within a suite of polyunsaturated 2,6,10,15,19-pentamethyleicosenes indicated that in methanotrophic archaea there is a biosynthetic pathway similar to that proposed for methanogenic archaea. The presence of group-specific biomarkers (for ANME-1 and ANME-2 associations) and the observation that there were differences in 13C uptake into specific lipid compounds confirmed that multiple phylogenetically distinct microorganisms participate to various extents in biomass formation linked to AOM. However, the greater 13C uptake into the lipids of the sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) than into the lipids of archaea supports the hypothesis that there is autotrophic growth of SRB on small methane-derived carbon compounds supplied by the methane oxidizers.
Methane release from seafloor sediments is moderated, in part, by the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) performed by consortia of archaea and bacteria. These consortia occur as isolated cells and aggregates within the sulfate-methane transition (SMT) of diffusion and seep-dominant environments. Here we report on a new SMT setting where the AOM consortium occurs as macroscopic pink to orange biofilms within subseafloor fractures. Biofilm samples recovered from the Indian and northeast Pacific Oceans had a cellular abundance of 107 to 108 cells cm−3. This cell density is 2 to 3 orders of magnitude greater than that in the surrounding sediments. Sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes indicated that the bacterial component is dominated by Deltaproteobacteria, candidate division WS3, and Chloroflexi, representing 46%, 15%, and 10% of clones, respectively. In addition, major archaeal taxa found in the biofilm were related to the ANME-1 clade, Thermoplasmatales, and Desulfurococcales, representing 73%, 11%, and 10% of archaeal clones, respectively. The sequences of all major taxa were similar to sequences previously reported from cold seep environments. PhyloChip microarray analysis detected all bacterial phyla identified by the clone library plus an additional 44 phyla. However, sequencing detected more archaea than the PhyloChip within the phyla of Methanosarcinales and Desulfurococcales. The stable carbon isotope composition of the biofilm from the SMT (−35 to −43‰) suggests that the production of the biofilm is associated with AOM. These biofilms are a novel, but apparently widespread, aggregation of cells represented by the ANME-1 clade that occur in methane-rich marine sediments.
Diverse associations between methanotrophic archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacterial groups (SRB) often co-occur in marine methane seeps; however, the ecophysiology of these different symbiotic associations has not been examined. Here, we applied a combination of molecular, geochemical and Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) coupled to nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (FISH-NanoSIMS) analyses of in situ seep sediments and methane-amended sediment incubations from diverse locations (Eel River Basin, Hydrate Ridge and Costa Rican Margin seeps) to investigate the distribution and physiology of a newly identified subgroup of the Desulfobulbaceae (seepDBB) found in consortia with ANME-2c archaea, and compared these with the more commonly observed associations between the same ANME partner and the Desulfobacteraceae (DSS). FISH analyses revealed aggregates of seepDBB cells in association with ANME-2 from both environmental samples and laboratory incubations that are distinct in their structure relative to co-occurring ANME/DSS consortia. ANME/seepDBB aggregates were most abundant in shallow sediment depths below sulfide-oxidizing microbial mats. Depth profiles of ANME/seepDBB aggregate abundance revealed a positive correlation with elevated porewater nitrate relative to ANME/DSS aggregates in all seep sites examined. This relationship with nitrate was supported by sediment microcosm experiments, in which the abundance of ANME/seepDBB was greater in nitrate-amended incubations relative to the unamended control. FISH-NanoSIMS additionally revealed significantly higher 15N-nitrate incorporation levels in individual aggregates of ANME/seepDBB relative to ANME/DSS aggregates from the same incubation. These combined results suggest that nitrate is a geochemical effector of ANME/seepDBB aggregate distribution, and provides a unique niche for these consortia through their utilization of a greater range of nitrogen substrates than the ANME/DSS.
niche differentiation; nitrate assimilation; Desulfobulbaceae; methane seep; symbiosis
The lipid composition of the extremely halophilic archaeon
Haloquadratum walsbyi was investigated by thin-layer
chromatography and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry. The
analysis of neutral lipids showed the presence of vitamin MK-8,
squalene, carotene, bacterioruberin and several retinal isomers. The
major polar lipids were phosphatidylglycerophosphate methyl ester,
phosphatidylglycerosulfate, phosphatidylglycerol and sulfated
diglycosyl diether lipid. Among cardiolipins, the tetra-phytanyl or
dimeric phospholipids, only traces of bisphosphatidylglycerol were
detected. When the cells were exposed to hypotonic medium, no changes
in the membrane lipid composition occurred. Distinguishing it from
other extreme halophiles of the Halobacteriaceae
family, the osmotic stress did not induce the
neo-synthesis of cardiolipins in H. walsbyi. The
difference may depend on the three-laminar structure of the cell wall,
which differs significantly from that of other Haloarchaea.
Archaea; archaeal phospholipids; ether lipids; Halobacteriaceae
Subsurface fluids from deep-sea hydrocarbon seeps undergo methane- and sulfur-cycling microbial transformations near the sediment surface. Hydrocarbon seep habitats are naturally patchy, with a mosaic of active seep sediments and non-seep sediments. Microbial community shifts and changing activity patterns on small spatial scales from seep to non-seep sediment remain to be examined in a comprehensive habitat study.
We conducted a transect of biogeochemical measurements and gene expression related to methane- and sulfur-cycling at different sediment depths across a broad Beggiatoa spp. mat at Mississippi Canyon 118 (MC118) in the Gulf of Mexico. High process rates within the mat (∼400 cm and ∼10 cm from the mat's edge) contrasted with sharply diminished activity at ∼50 cm outside the mat, as shown by sulfate and methane concentration profiles, radiotracer rates of sulfate reduction and methane oxidation, and stable carbon isotopes. Likewise, 16S ribosomal rRNA, dsrAB (dissimilatory sulfite reductase) and mcrA (methyl coenzyme M reductase) mRNA transcripts of sulfate-reducing bacteria (Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae) and methane-cycling archaea (ANME-1 and ANME-2) were prevalent at the sediment surface under the mat and at its edge. Outside the mat at the surface, 16S rRNA sequences indicated mostly aerobes commonly found in seawater. The seep-related communities persisted at 12–20 cm depth inside and outside the mat. 16S rRNA transcripts and V6-tags reveal that bacterial and archaeal diversity underneath the mat are similar to each other, in contrast to oxic or microoxic habitats that have higher bacterial diversity.
The visual patchiness of microbial mats reflects sharp discontinuities in microbial community structure and activity over sub-meter spatial scales; these discontinuities have to be taken into account in geochemical and microbiological inventories of seep environments. In contrast, 12–20 cm deep in the sediments microbial communities performing methane-cycling and sulfate reduction persist at lower metabolic rates regardless of mat cover, and may increase activity rapidly when subsurface flow changes.
Samples from three submerged sites (MC, a core obtained in the methane seep area; MR, a reference core obtained at a distance from the methane seep; and HC, a gas-bubbling carbonate sample) at the Kuroshima Knoll in the southern Ryuku arc were analyzed to gain insight into the organisms present and the processes involved in this oxic-anoxic methane seep environment. 16S rRNA gene analyses by quantitative real-time PCR and clone library sequencing revealed that the MC core sediments contained abundant archaea (∼34% of the total prokaryotes), including both mesophilic methanogens related to the genus Methanolobus and ANME-2 members of the Methanosarcinales, as well as members of the δ-Proteobacteria, suggesting that both anaerobic methane oxidation and methanogenesis occurred at this site. In addition, several functional genes connected with methane metabolism were analyzed by quantitative competitive-PCR, including the genes encoding particulate methane monooxygenase (pmoA), soluble methane monooxygenase (mmoX), methanol dehydrogenese (mxaF), and methyl coenzyme M reductase (mcrA). In the MC core sediments, the most abundant gene was mcrA (2.5 × 106 copies/g [wet weight]), while the pmoA gene of the type I methanotrophs (5.9 × 106 copies/g [wet weight]) was most abundant at the surface of the MC core. These results indicate that there is a very complex environment in which methane production, anaerobic methane oxidation, and aerobic methane oxidation all occur in close proximity. The HC carbonate site was rich in γ-Proteobacteria and had a high copy number of mxaF (7.1 × 106 copies/g [wet weight]) and a much lower copy number of the pmoA gene (3.2 × 102 copies/g [wet weight]). The mmoX gene was never detected. In contrast, the reference core contained familiar sequences of marine sedimentary archaeal and bacterial groups but not groups specific to C1 metabolism. Geochemical characterization of the amounts and isotopic composition of pore water methane and sulfate strongly supported the notion that in this zone both aerobic methane oxidation and anaerobic methane oxidation, as well as methanogenesis, occur.
Methane oxidizing prokaryotes in marine sediments are believed to function as a methane filter reducing the oceanic contribution to the global methane emission. In the anoxic parts of the sediments, oxidation of methane is accomplished by anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) living in syntrophy with sulphate reducing bacteria. This anaerobic oxidation of methane is assumed to be a coupling of reversed methanogenesis and dissimilatory sulphate reduction. Where oxygen is available aerobic methanotrophs take part in methane oxidation. In this study, we used metagenomics to characterize the taxonomic and metabolic potential for methane oxidation at the Tonya seep in the Coal Oil Point area, California. Two metagenomes from different sediment depth horizons (0-4 cm and 10-15 cm below sea floor) were sequenced by 454 technology. The metagenomes were analysed to characterize the distribution of aerobic and anaerobic methanotrophic taxa at the two sediment depths. To gain insight into the metabolic potential the metagenomes were searched for marker genes associated with methane oxidation.
Blast searches followed by taxonomic binning in MEGAN revealed aerobic methanotrophs of the genus Methylococcus to be overrepresented in the 0-4 cm metagenome compared to the 10-15 cm metagenome. In the 10-15 cm metagenome, ANME of the ANME-1 clade, were identified as the most abundant methanotrophic taxon with 8.6% of the reads. Searches for particulate methane monooxygenase (pmoA) and methyl-coenzyme M reductase (mcrA), marker genes for aerobic and anaerobic oxidation of methane respectively, identified pmoA in the 0-4 cm metagenome as Methylococcaceae related. The mcrA reads from the 10-15 cm horizon were all classified as originating from the ANME-1 clade.
Most of the taxa detected were present in both metagenomes and differences in community structure and corresponding metabolic potential between the two samples were mainly due to abundance differences.
The results suggests that the Tonya Seep sediment is a robust methane filter, where taxa presently dominating this process could be replaced by less abundant methanotrophic taxa in case of changed environmental conditions.
The methane-emitting cold seeps of Hikurangi margin (New Zealand) are among the few deep-sea chemosynthetic ecosystems of the Southern Hemisphere known to date. Here we compared the biogeochemistry and microbial communities of a variety of Hikurangi cold seep ecosystems. These included highly reduced seep habitats dominated by bacterial mats, partially oxidized habitats populated by heterotrophic ampharetid polychaetes and deeply oxidized habitats dominated by chemosynthetic frenulate tubeworms. The ampharetid habitats were characterized by a thick oxic sediment layer that hosted a diverse and biomass-rich community of aerobic methanotrophic Gammaproteobacteria. These bacteria consumed up to 25% of the emanating methane and clustered within three deep-branching groups named Marine Methylotrophic Group (MMG) 1-3. MMG1 and MMG2 methylotrophs belong to the order Methylococcales, whereas MMG3 methylotrophs are related to the Methylophaga. Organisms of the groups MMG1 and MMG3 are close relatives of chemosynthetic endosymbionts of marine invertebrates. The anoxic sediment layers of all investigated seeps were dominated by anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) of the ANME-2 clade and sulfate-reducing Deltaproteobacteria. Microbial community analysis using Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA) showed that the different seep habitats hosted distinct microbial communities, which were strongly influenced by the seep-associated fauna and the geographic location. Despite outstanding features of Hikurangi seep communities, the organisms responsible for key ecosystem functions were similar to those found at seeps worldwide. This suggests that similar types of biogeochemical settings select for similar community composition regardless of geographic distance. Because ampharetid polychaetes are widespread at cold seeps the role of aerobic methanotrophy may have been underestimated in seafloor methane budgets.
The consumption of methane in anoxic marine sediments is a biogeochemical phenomenon mediated by two archaeal groups (ANME-1 and ANME-2) that exist syntrophically with sulfate-reducing bacteria. These anaerobic methanotrophs have yet to be recovered in pure culture, and key aspects of their ecology and physiology remain poorly understood. To characterize the growth and physiology of these anaerobic methanotrophs and the syntrophic sulfate-reducing bacteria, we incubated marine sediments using an anoxic, continuous-flow bioreactor during two experiments at different advective porewater flow rates. We examined the growth kinetics of anaerobic methanotrophs and Desulfosarcina-like sulfate-reducing bacteria using quantitative PCR as a proxy for cell counts, and measured methane oxidation rates using membrane-inlet mass spectrometry. Our data show that the specific growth rates of ANME-1 and ANME-2 archaea differed in response to porewater flow rates. ANME-2 methanotrophs had the highest rates in lower-flow regimes (μANME-2 = 0.167 · week−1), whereas ANME-1 methanotrophs had the highest rates in higher-flow regimes (μANME-1 = 0.218 · week−1). In both incubations, Desulfosarcina-like sulfate-reducing bacterial growth rates were approximately 0.3 · week−1, and their growth dynamics suggested that sulfate-reducing bacterial growth might be facilitated by, but not dependent upon, an established anaerobic methanotrophic population. ANME-1 growth rates corroborate field observations that ANME-1 archaea flourish in higher-flow regimes. Our growth and methane oxidation rates jointly demonstrate that anaerobic methanotrophs are capable of attaining substantial growth over a range of environmental conditions used in these experiments, including relatively low methane partial pressures.
Communities of anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) grow slowly, which limits the ability to perform physiological studies. High methane partial pressure was previously successfully applied to stimulate growth, but it is not clear how different ANME subtypes and associated SRB are affected by it. Here, we report on the growth of ANME-SRB in a membrane capsule bioreactor inoculated with Eckernförde Bay sediment that combines high-pressure incubation (10.1 MPa methane) and thorough mixing (100 rpm) with complete cell retention by a 0.2-μm-pore-size membrane. The results were compared to previously obtained data from an ambient-pressure (0.101 MPa methane) bioreactor inoculated with the same sediment. The rates of oxidation of labeled methane were not higher at 10.1 MPa, likely because measurements were done at ambient pressure. The subtype ANME-2a/b was abundant in both reactors, but subtype ANME-2c was enriched only at 10.1 MPa. SRB at 10.1 MPa mainly belonged to the SEEP-SRB2 and Eel-1 groups and the Desulfuromonadales and not to the typically found SEEP-SRB1 group. The increase of ANME-2a/b occurred in parallel with the increase of SEEP-SRB2, which was previously found to be associated only with ANME-2c. Our results imply that the syntrophic association is flexible and that methane pressure and sulfide concentration influence the growth of different ANME-SRB consortia. We also studied the effect of elevated methane pressure on methane production and oxidation by a mixture of methanogenic and sulfate-reducing sludge. Here, methane oxidation rates decreased and were not coupled to sulfide production, indicating trace methane oxidation during net methanogenesis and not anaerobic methane oxidation, even at a high methane partial pressure.
Vesicomyidae clams harbor sulfide-oxidizing endosymbionts and are typical members of cold seep communities where active venting of fluids and gases takes place. We investigated the central biogeochemical processes that supported a vesicomyid clam colony as part of a locally restricted seep community in the Japan Trench at 5346 m water depth, one of the deepest seep settings studied to date. An integrated approach of biogeochemical and molecular ecological techniques was used combining in situ and ex situ measurements. In sediment of the clam colony, low sulfate reduction rates (maximum 128 nmol mL−1 day−1) were coupled to the anaerobic oxidation of methane. They were observed over a depth range of 15 cm, caused by active transport of sulfate due to bioturbation of the vesicomyid clams. A distinct separation between the seep and the surrounding seafloor was shown by steep horizontal geochemical gradients and pronounced microbial community shifts. The sediment below the clam colony was dominated by anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME-2c) and sulfate-reducing Desulfobulbaceae (SEEP-SRB-3, SEEP-SRB-4). Aerobic methanotrophic bacteria were not detected in the sediment, and the oxidation of sulfide seemed to be carried out chemolithoautotrophically by Sulfurovum species. Thus, major redox processes were mediated by distinct subgroups of seep-related microorganisms that might have been selected by this specific abyssal seep environment. Fluid flow and microbial activity were low but sufficient to support the clam community over decades and to build up high biomasses. Hence, the clams and their microbial communities adapted successfully to a low-energy regime and may represent widespread chemosynthetic communities in the Japan Trench. In this regard, they contributed to the restricted deep-sea trench biodiversity as well as to the organic carbon availability, also for non-seep organisms, in such oligotrophic benthic environment of the dark deep ocean.
Submarine mud volcanoes are formed by expulsions of mud, fluids, and gases from deeply buried subsurface sources. They are highly reduced benthic habitats and often associated with intensive methane seepage. In this study, the microbial diversity and community structure in methane-rich sediments of the Haakon Mosby Mud Volcano (HMMV) were investigated by comparative sequence analysis of 16S rRNA genes and fluorescence in situ hybridization. In the active volcano center, which has a diameter of about 500 m, the main methane-consuming process was bacterial aerobic oxidation. In this zone, aerobic methanotrophs belonging to three bacterial clades closely affiliated with Methylobacter and Methylophaga species accounted for 56% ± 8% of total cells. In sediments below Beggiatoa mats encircling the center of the HMMV, methanotrophic archaea of the ANME-3 clade dominated the zone of anaerobic methane oxidation. ANME-3 archaea form cell aggregates mostly associated with sulfate-reducing bacteria of the Desulfobulbus (DBB) branch. These ANME-3/DBB aggregates were highly abundant and accounted for up to 94% ± 2% of total microbial biomass at 2 to 3 cm below the surface. ANME-3/DBB aggregates could be further enriched by flow cytometry to identify their phylogenetic relationships. At the outer rim of the mud volcano, the seafloor was colonized by tubeworms (Siboglinidae, formerly known as Pogonophora). Here, both aerobic and anaerobic methane oxidizers were found, however, in lower abundances. The level of microbial diversity at this site was higher than that at the central and Beggiatoa species-covered part of the HMMV. Analysis of methyl-coenzyme M-reductase alpha subunit (mcrA) genes showed a strong dominance of a novel lineage, mcrA group f, which could be assigned to ANME-3 archaea. Our results further support the hypothesis of Niemann et al. (54), that high methane availability and different fluid flow regimens at the HMMV provide distinct niches for aerobic and anaerobic methanotrophs.
A cold methane seep was discovered in a forearc sediment basin off the island Sumatra, exhibiting a methane-seep adapted microbial community. A defined seep center of activity, like in mud volcanoes, was not discovered. The seep area was rather characterized by a patchy distribution of active spots. The relevance of anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) was reflected by 13C-depleted isotopic signatures of dissolved inorganic carbon. The anaerobic conversion of methane to CO2 was confirmed in a 13C-labeling experiment. Methane fueled a vital microbial community with cell numbers of up to 4 × 109 cells cm−3 sediment. The microbial community was analyzed by total cell counting, catalyzed reporter deposition–fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD–FISH), quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). CARD–FISH cell counts and qPCR measurements showed the presence of Bacteria and Archaea, but only small numbers of Eukarya. The archaeal community comprised largely members of ANME-1 and ANME-2. Furthermore, members of the Crenarchaeota were frequently detected in the DGGE analysis. Three major bacterial phylogenetic groups (δ-Proteobacteria, candidate division OP9, and Anaerolineaceae) were abundant across the study area. Several of these sequences were closely related to the genus Desulfococcus of the family Desulfobacteraceae, which is in good agreement with previously described AOM sites. In conclusion, the majority of the microbial community at the seep consisted of AOM-related microorganisms, while the relevance of higher hydrocarbons as microbial substrates was negligible.
DGGE; quantitative PCR; CARD–FISH; methane seep; stable isotopes; AOM; hydrocarbon-dependent methanogenesis
The phylogenetic diversity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) was surveyed in the surface sediments from the northern part of the South China Sea (SCS). The distribution pattern of AOA in the western Pacific was discussed through comparing the SCS with other areas in the western Pacific including Changjiang Estuary and the adjacent East China Sea where high input of anthropogenic nitrogen was evident, the tropical West Pacific Continental Margins close to the Philippines, the deep-sea methane seep sediments in the Okhotsk Sea, the cold deep sea of Northeastern Japan Sea, and the hydrothermal field in the Southern Okinawa Trough. These various environments provide a wide spectrum of physical and chemical conditions for a better understanding of the distribution pattern and diversities of AOA in the western Pacific. Under these different conditions, the distinct community composition between shallow and deep-sea sediments was clearly delineated based on the UniFrac PCoA and Jackknife Environmental Cluster analyses. Phylogenetic analyses showed that a few ammonia-oxidizing archaeal subclades in the marine water column/sediment clade and endemic lineages were indicative phylotypes for some environments. Higher phylogenetic diversity was observed in the Philippines while lower diversity in the hydrothermal vent habitat. Water depth and possibly with other environmental factors could be the main driving forces to shape the phylogenetic diversity of AOA observed, not only in the SCS but also in the whole western Pacific. The multivariate regression tree analysis also supported this observation consistently. Moreover, the functions of current and other climate factors were also discussed in comparison of phylogenetic diversity. The information collectively provides important insights into the ecophysiological requirements of uncultured ammonia-oxidizing archaeal lineages in the western Pacific Ocean.
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